Monday, April 13, 2009

Mallard Mother Has Seven Babies at Erlanger

Sometimes animals will do something unexpected that surprises even the experts. Last year, a female mallard decided that the Liriope, or "monkey grass" near the Emergency Room entrance at Erlanger Medical Center was a suitable nesting location. She had plenty of folks watching over her progress while she incubated her eggs. When the babies came, one of the Aquarium's bird experts, Kevin Calhoon was called in to help relocate the family to more suitable surroundings. Guess what? Momma Mallard returned to the same spot this year and seven babies hatched on Friday! The family moved out on Saturday, hopefully to a more favorable location similar to where Kevin Calhoon moved Momma Mallard last year. Here are Kevin's thoughts on this "lucky duck."

The female Mallard (I use the term “Mallard” loosely because this bird was of domesticated origin, its plumage was not that of a wild Mallard.) built her nest in a planter containing monkey grass (ornamental) next to the Erlanger Emergency room entrance. The nest was very well hidden, lined with down, and when she was done laying contained 14 eggs (most mallards usually lay 8 – 12 eggs). The eggs started to hatch approximately 30 days after she began incubating which is after the last egg is laid. The staff looked after the nest feeding the hen bread and observing her daily. I instructed them to me know when the first duckling began to hatch so they family could be moved to a safe location near water. Mallards take their young to the water soon after they are all hatched. I placed the whole family in a cardboard box (luckily we caught all fourteen ducklings which are very quick!) and transported them to Amnicola Lake at the greenway off of Amnicola Highway where I released them in the weeds next to the water. She immediately led her young to the waters edge and they disappeared. Mallards do tend to go back to the same areas to nest year after year, but I expected this hen to stay at Amnicloa Lake which is 2-3 miles from Erlanger to nest this year because it is a much safer and more suitable area BUT I WAS WRONG!!!!

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